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Contrary to those who say the jury messed up in the George Zimmerman trial, Ta-Nehisi Coates has a new piece up that will be a tough read for many here, but which makes it all the more important.  Because Coates, as he often does, gets at the larger picture that faces our society.

Under Florida law, George Zimmerman had no responsibility to -- at any point -- retreat. The state must prove that Zimmerman had no reasonable fear for his life. Moreover, it is not enough for the jury to find Zimmerman's story fishy.

....

The injustice inherent in the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was not authored by a jury given a weak case. The jury's performance may be the least disturbing aspect of this entire affair. The injustice was authored by a country which has taken as its policy, for the lionshare of its history, to erect a pariah class. The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is not an error in programming. It is the correct result of forces we set in motion years ago and have done very little to arrest.

....

You should not be troubled that George Zimmerman "got away" with the killing of Trayvon Martin, you should be troubled that you live in a country that ensures that Trayvon Martin will happen.

Read the whole thing.

As for the trial and the evidence itself, bmaz over at Emptywheel's site wrote something similar before the verdict came in, saying:

there has never been a good factual rebuttal to George Zimmerman’s own account of self defense. You know why? Because there is not any compelling rebuttal within the facts as adduced in the investigation and entered in the record at trial. And the presumption of innocence and burden of proof in the American criminal justice system still mean something.
He then goes on to list several things that many people didn't know.  I admit, even after following quite a bit of this whole saga for the past 18 months, I had no idea a suspect was ever caught in the home invasion.
Did you know that powerful local mayoral office politicians involved themselves, by meeting with only the victim’s family and their attorneys, in an improper ex-parte manner, to go over the most critical evidence during the early stages of the investigation and before said Martin family members’ statements were relied on to file charges? I bet you did not, but that has been the testimony in the trial record.

Did any of you see the young female neighborhood homeowner, Olivia Bertalan, that testified Wednesday as to the crime spree that was ongoing in her and Zimmerman’s neighborhood, Retreat at Twin Lakes, including the home invasion where she and her child were victims of one or more home invaders, and who was effusive in her praise for the concern of the neighborhood watch program and George Zimmerman? Did you know that, thanks in part to the actions of Zimmerman and his wife, the juvenile suspect was caught and sentenced as an adult by this same judge, Debra Nelson, to five years in prison? Probably not is my guess. But that, too, is the evidence.

Did any of you see the other neighbors, of all races, in Retreat at Twin Lakes who testified on Zimmerman’s behalf about the the facts of the case, that Trayvon Martin was the aggressor on top of Zimmerman when the shooting occurred, and the crime afflicting the neighborhood and the need for the neighborhood watch program? My guess is you did not. But that, too, is part of the evidence in the trial record.

....

The facts, the rule of law, and the constitutional burdens of proof compel an acquittal. Uncomfortable to hear; yes, it is. Necessary for an acquittal to occur; also, yes it is.

Incredibly harsh.  It goes against everything that I feel should have happened.  But is he correct?  And is the best course of action, given what these two wrote, to petition the Justice Department to file suit?  Should our focus be on repealing the Stand Your Ground law in Florida?
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Comment Preferences

  •  what if we don't want to live in that country? (18+ / 0-)

    how do we stop those forces?

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 09:17:55 AM PDT

  •  sorry but sounds like he is invoking stand your (25+ / 0-)

    ground and that was never the case in this case

    Under Florida law, George Zimmerman had no responsibility to -- at any point -- retreat.
    josh marshall's take was interesting
    In Florida, if self-defense is even suggested, it’s the states obligation to prove it’s absence beyond a reasonable doubt(!). That’s crazy. But ‘not guilty’ was certainly a reasonable result in this case. As I told in friend in Tampa today though, if you’re ever in a heated argument with anyone, and you’re pretty sure there aren’t any witnesses, it’s always best to kill the other person. They can’t testify, you don’t have to testify, no one else has any idea what happened; how can the state ever prove beyond a doubt is wasn’t self-defense? Holy crap! What kind of system is that?
    Following up on the conversation, Eugene Volokh suggests that the law of self-defense is actually the same in Florida as it is throughout the country, with the single exception of Ohio
    •  Self-defense without a reasonableness requirement (25+ / 0-)

      is an invitation to vigilantism, as is concealed-carry.  The problem here is the proliferation of guns and the glorification of violence, so that a George Zimmerman builds his self-esteem by carrying a gun and being a wannabe cop.  And if it all goes wrong, there is no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt it wasn't self defense.  Coates is right.

      Of course there is a clear racial component here and a strong double standard which the defense attorneys played on.  White people tend to be afraid of black people even though the reality is that black people, especially young men, are much more likely to die or suffer violence at the hands of white people than the reverse.  Black people are the ones who suffer disproportionate violence.

      It seems we are returning to the Wild West days of shootouts on the streets.  I expect to see a lot more violence as people pull out their guns over perceived episodes of disrespect.  Only when too many bystanders are hit will something be done.  If then.

      Don't bet your future on 97% of climate scientists being wrong. Take action on climate now!

      by Mimikatz on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 10:30:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Something that has always been the case with (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Heavy Mettle, Lujane, pengiep, shaharazade

      self-defense.  I'd make sure you rough yourself up a bit so there is physical evidence of you being harmed though.  

      Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

      by thestructureguy on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 10:40:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  unfortunately Josh is right (6+ / 0-)

      the sad truth is that in a case such as this is that they are always hard because there is no alternate voice, no alternate person.  Kill the only other "witness" and it's you story against forensics (if they exist) as to self defense.  If you don't have the CSI stuff, then it's off to acquittal.    And in this case, it had so much more stacked against it from the onset: only the law, a messed up and aborted criminal investigation (that botched so much at the most critical point), lousy and uncaring state witnesses (that ME should be fired and no one could have rehabilitated him; the cops basically didn't care a whit and it showed), Trayvon as a person, Trayvon as to what he saw, felt, heard, and did was a mere after thought.  
      It was an uphill battle to begin with.  Could it have been presented better?  Hell yes, and I believe with better lawyering it could have been won (as manslaughter), but it's a belief, not a certainty.  The prosecutors allowed the defense to control the courtroom and control the process.  Not enough objecting, not enough controlling the witnesses, too much left hanging in testimony without follow ups.  
      But the sad sad truth is as long as we have laws that basically say what this statute says, it's open season.

      •  it was a crappy case (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lujane, jds1978, VClib

        you have a defendant with injuries who says "I was getting beaten", you have one witness, who was closest to the scene who says "I saw the defendant getting beat", you have injuries on the victim consistent with throwing punches,
        you have a gunshot consistent with a beating,

        you have a victim who had 4 minutes to get away and stayed around.

        what do you get?

        a crappy case.

        if they had video, it'd be one thing.

        if they had eyewitnesses to the whole thing,

        if they had forensics showing a different story, but,
        they didn't

        very marginal case and the jury tossed it after reviewing
        all the evidence.

        •  is this Mark O Mara? (0+ / 0-)

          Injuries were superficial.  So you are  losing a fist fight and you get to pull a gun?
          4 minutes is a fiction. Plus Why don't you ask why GZ never got back into his car in those 4 minutes that you claim? A car that btw was 50 feet away. I have an easier time thinking 17 year old was not paying attention to time but talking to a girl than a grown man could not find a street name in a 3 street comminity that he had lived in and watched for years. And just stood around for 4 minites trying to do so.
          We will never know whether there was more evidence since the cops never treated it as a crime scene from the start.
          Only a marginal case to use your phrase because of a bs statute that is a license to killl.
          But please feel free to blame the kid with the iced tea rather than the grownup with a gun and a cop complex.

          •  you can't have it both ways (0+ / 0-)

            you can't deny the 4 minutes and then use it to
            question GZ.

            GZ knew an officer was on the way, so
            he would be waiting.

            he could be waiting where he was
            he could be waiting by his truck
            but he would be waiting.

            the distance GZ traveled is consistent with waiting.

            the distance TM traveled is consistent with waiting.

            GZ waiting is consistent with being a good citizen.

            TM waiting is inexplicable.

            juries hate inexplicable.

    •  Did you read the linked article? (8+ / 0-)

      Those were the ACTUAL jury instructions.

      You can say this

      sorry but sounds like he is invoking stand your...

      ground and that was never the case in this case

      But that is simply your interpretation. The facts are that these are the actual instructions sent back with the jury.

       

      In deciding whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you must judge him by the circumstances by which he was surrounded at the time the force was used. The danger facing George Zimmerman need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force. Based upon appearances, George Zimmerman must have actually believed that the danger was real.

      If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

      It doesn't matter what you think, to be quite honest.

      It only matter what was sent back with the jury.  And someone else agrees with me.

      Coates seems to be speaking directly to you:


      There has been a lot of complaint that "stand your ground" has nothing to do with this case. That contention is contravened by the fact that it is cited in the instructions to the jury.

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:36:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  True about the jury instructions. But with the... (3+ / 0-)

        ...exception of one comment in passing by the prosecution (!!) in its closing rebuttal, that was the sole mention of stand your ground. Otherwise, never explained to a jury that also was, based on its question near the end of deliberations, uncertain about the manslaughter instruction, which was a lot clearer.

        Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

        by Meteor Blades on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 01:45:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  SYG, Self-Defense Are Speculative Conclusions (0+ / 0-)

        While O'Mara may like to think, esp now for purposes of immunity from civil liability under Florida law, that the jury concluded his client was not guilty based on his invocation of self-defense and the fact that Zimmerman had no duty to retreat, but that is pure conjecture.  

        Neither the defense nor the prosecution asked for special instructions that would have required the jury to specify or disclose the rationale for the verdict.  It is thus equally plausible to say, especially given the jury question regading manslaughter, that the jury concluded the state failed to prove the mens rea element of the crime with proof beyhond a reasonable doubt (namely, that Zimmerman acted with malice, evil intent, depravity or hatred toward his victim), as it is to say that the jury concluded that Zimmerman proved  he acted in self-defense.  

        It may be worth noting, that absent special instructions, the civil case may be allowed to go forward, Zimmerman's putative immunity notwithstanding.  And so maybe we will, afterall, be able find out from Zimmerman what really happened

  •  hey Atlantic! what the FUCK is up with that pic? (10+ / 0-)

    I'm fucking serious.  what the hell does "The Game" have to do with this?

    know what, fuck this.  I ain't ready.  thought I was, but I ain't.

    This comment is dedicated to my mellow Adept2U and his Uncle Marcus

    by mallyroyal on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 09:25:45 AM PDT

  •  Gated community and robbery "spree".... (11+ / 0-)

    hmmmm.....what the fuck are the gates for?

    Listening to the NRA on school safety is like listening to the tobacco companies on cigarette safety. (h/t nightsweat)

    by PsychoSavannah on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 09:29:36 AM PDT

  •  I don't understand Coates's point. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beltane, blueoregon, nzanne, Dave925

    Of course the injustice was authored by laws and policy, written over years, and based in the kind of country we are. That's not in question. That's a given.

    My question is, if we don't have juries willing to nullify this shit in cases like this, where the agreed-upon-facts are clear, how are we supposed to change the sort of country we are?

    As for bmaz, I didn't know any of that (I haven't been following the story very closely) but none of it surprised me. I just don't see how saying 'he's such a nice boy' about Zimmerman alters the case in the slightest.

    "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

    by GussieFN on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 09:40:48 AM PDT

    •  Some of history's greatest crimes (23+ / 0-)

      were committed in full compliance of the law. While Rule of Law is essential for a civilized society, it is not enough to guarantee a civilized society.

    •  As a juror, you don't have the option to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nellgwen

      nullify something you don't agree with. You are there to pass judgement within the context of the law as it stands.

      You want to change the law, change the legislators.

      "Only a Vulcan mind meld will help with this congress." Leonard Nimoy, 3/1/13

      by nzanne on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 11:11:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  What is it you want to nullify? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GussieFN, No one gets out alive

      The requirement to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt?  Thats really all the jury had before it.  This wasn't a case where you would have your classic jury-nullification scenario of a law that was being enforced to the detriment of the defendant.  I once had a case where the State was charging a paraplegic with theft of utilities because she charged her chair in an outdoor outlet at an apartment complex she was visiting.  That was a case for Jury Nullification.  In the Zimmerman case the jury could only go on what was presented them.  That was insufficient in their eyes.  That lead to the not-guilty (not an "innocent" verdict, just not proven  guilty).

      . On ne gagne que les combats que l'on mène

      by NearlyNormal on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 11:22:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wanted them to nullify (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NearlyNormal

        the legal fact that it is perfectly legally reasonable for a man to grab his gun and stalk an unarmed teen--innocently going about his own business--through the darkness, to confront the teen, and then to shoot the teen to death because at some point during the confrontation he engineered he claims he felt that his life was threatened.

        "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

        by GussieFN on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 11:48:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That wouldn't be nullification (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GussieFN

          That would be something else, it would be an evil notion that even though the facts to convict were not there they decided to convict anyway.  An already dreadful death would then be used to do away with the requirement that a jury get picked, evidence put before it and then a decision made.  Might as well do away with the evidence part altogether and go straight to sentencing.

          It was a crappy case, justice declined to make an appearance and we were left with legality.

          . On ne gagne que les combats que l'on mène

          by NearlyNormal on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:06:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, I'm no expert, but apparently (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NearlyNormal

            jury nullification is a "sanctioned doctrine of trial proceedings wherein members of a jury disregard either the evidence presented or the instructions of the judge in order to reach a verdict based upon their own consciences. It espouses the concept that jurors should be the judges of both law and fact."

            "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

            by GussieFN on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:11:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sure, but its not really "sanctioned" (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              GussieFN, VClib

              although you can get sanctioned for steering too close to it.  Here, though, you don't have the basis for jury nullification since there were not sufficient facts there to regard, let alone disregard.  This goes back to my original question:  What should be nullified?  The law that a case has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt?  That would be a sad capper to this whole tragedy.

              . On ne gagne que les combats que l'on mène

              by NearlyNormal on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:28:34 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I don't understand. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                NearlyNormal

                Jury nullification is 'occurs when a jury substitutes its own interpretation of the law.'

                So, say, the jury's own interpretation of the law would be, 'if you hunt an unarmed kid down while packing a gun and spark a confrontation that ends with you shooting him to death, that's manslaughter.' What's nullified isn't reasonable doubt; it's that the law is wrong to permit this sort of life-taking in the first place.

                "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

                by GussieFN on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:46:35 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  If they had found all those things I suspect (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  VClib

                  they would have found enough to convict of manslaughter.  I don't think they found those things beyond a reasonable doubt.  Particularly I don't think they found that he hunted the kid down, or that he sparked the confrontation beyond a reasonable doubt.  I can't read their minds, but that is how the simplest analysis goes.

                  I really think, if you think this through, that you don't want the juries deciding that they can make up new charges and decide them.  How, for example, would a defendant proceed with a defense if he doesn't know what the elements of the charges are?  Jury nullification is the finding not guilty of someone because you think its the right thing to do, not the deciding to convict someone because you think they are guilty of something other than what they are charged with.

                  Thanks Gussie.
                  NN

                  . On ne gagne que les combats que l'on mène

                  by NearlyNormal on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 02:01:29 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Gussie "jury nullification" guilty verdicts (3+ / 0-)

                  are almost unheard of and, if they happen, are usually overturned on appeal.

                  "let's talk about that"

                  by VClib on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 02:18:21 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  The other thing about this is (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  GussieFN, Demeter Rising

                  I expect it would be more likely that black/hispanic defendants might be particularly succeptible to even more injustices if juries could just decide that they could make up new law and convict based on these new laws.  The problem with justice in this country is not that there are too many protections for criminal defendants, if it were we wouldn't be leading the industrial world in incarceration rates.

                  . On ne gagne que les combats que l'on mène

                  by NearlyNormal on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 02:35:03 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  That's an interesting point. (0+ / 0-)

                    I suspect that one reason why picking a jury is so very important is because if, say, we had more blacks and hispanics on juries, we might see more nullification of racist laws.

                    "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

                    by GussieFN on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 02:41:46 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I'd like to see more on juries because we (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      GussieFN

                      would more likely see the protections of the laws we do have enforced.  One of my partners used to practice in Compton.  He would tell us that it was a great place for a jury trial, if you said the cop planted the evidence the jury would take it seriously.  It is important for the whole community to be impaneled in a truly random fashion.  There are provisions for removing conflicted individuals from the panels.

                      Thanks Gussie.

                      . On ne gagne que les combats que l'on mène

                      by NearlyNormal on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 02:58:41 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

            •  If you read the link you provided above it (0+ / 0-)

              gives a clue for the process of jury nullification, it is used for acquitals since the state is barred from the appellate process and

              This gives juries an inherent power to follow their own consciences in reaching a verdict, notwithstanding jury instructions or charges to the contrary.
              If the jury had felt the evidence supplied reason to convict they would not have had to nullify anything.

              . On ne gagne que les combats que l'on mène

              by NearlyNormal on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:32:48 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  There was a neighbor who testified that she saw (11+ / 0-)

    two people moving together, passing by her house going toward the T. O'Mara came unglued when she testified, saying she hadn't said that in previous statements, like her deposition. However, at the site Axiom Amnesia, they have recordings of the original statements given to the original investigators. She says "they were moving from left to right" (toward the T) in her original statement. She is Witness #1. She said on the stand that they were standing, and one said something like, "umph" then "no." The fact O'Mara tried very hard to discredit her tells me that he knows Z detained Trayvon, and forced him back to the T, perhaps so he "wouldn't get away out the back entrance." Was the gun out at that point? Only Z knows.

  •  Not a tough read at all (12+ / 0-)

    Maybe it's because history is a series of tough reads and I'm inured to it, but really, that's the country we live in and if we want it to change we have to become agents of change.

    Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Boston (h/t Charles Pierce) Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue

    by Dave in Northridge on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 09:50:29 AM PDT

  •  The self-defense laws, in addition to the racial (19+ / 0-)

    component here should be the focus of discussions surrounding the Zimmerman trial.

    As law professor/blogger Eugene Volokh wrote yesterday:

    Who should bear the burden of proving or disproving self-defense in criminal cases, and by what quantum (preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence, or beyond a reasonable doubt), is an interesting question. But on this point, Florida law is precisely the same as in nearly all other states: In 49 of the 50 states, once the defense introduces any evidence of possible self-defense, the prosecution must disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

    This wasn’t always the rule. The English common law rule at the time of the Framing was that the defense must prove self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence, and Ohio still follows that rule; the Supreme Court has held (Martin v. Ohio (1987) that placing this burden on the accused is constitutional. But to my knowledge, only Ohio still takes the view — all the other states do not.

    As Volokh goes on to write, the thinking behind the concept of making the prosecution disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt is the notion that it's “Better that 10 guilty killers go free than one person who killed in proper self-defense go to prison for a long time (or be executed)" whereas if you're for the view that the defendant must prove self defense (the old common law view) you're essentially saying “It’s slightly worse for one guilty killer to go free than for one person who killed in proper self-defense to go to prison for a long time (or be executed).”

    Not at all discounting the racial element here; if Trayvon Martin was not Black, George Zimmerman wouldn't have stalked him that night, no confrontation would've ever happened, and Martin would've been alive.  On its face this sort of situation is a disturbing reflection of the realities of race in America.

    But if we want to understand the legal reasons why Zimmerman was found not guilty, the self-defense laws in this country which puts the burden on the prosecution to disprove self defense beyond a reasonable doubt are where to look.

    The question then is do we want to place more burden on the defendant to prove self-defense, in which case we will be risking the possibility of more people going to prison who may have truthfully acted in self-defense but couldn't prove it adequately?  Clearly 49 of 50 states have decided the opposite, that it's better that ten guilty persons go free than let one person who truthfully acted in self-defense to be locked up.  And Zimmerman may very well have been one of those guilty persons to go free.

    So do we want to change such laws in light of this?  If so, we should also realize the possible consequences and whether they're worth it to prevent more Zimmermans from going free.  I'm wrestling with such questions myself.  At this point, I don't know the answer.

    I will say this: the one lesson I've learned definitively from all of this is that if I'm kicking someone's ass, that person can legally shoot and kill me.  I am not a lawyer, and I truly did not know that before.  I was under the assumption that someone couldn't shoot you just because you were giving them an old-fashioned ass-whooping.

    But now I know better and so should you all, and that is especially the case when there's no witnesses.  Because apparently if you're in a fight with a person and there's no witnesses and that person shoots and kills you, barring any clear evidence to the contrary that person if he/she claims self-defense will be presumed to have acted in self-defense.

    Also want to make clear: legality is one thing, but justice in my opinion is something else entirely.  My view is that justice was not served here, whatever the legalties.

    "Those who have wrought great changes in the world never succeeded by gaining over chiefs; but always by exciting the multitude." - Martin Van Buren

    by puakev on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 10:06:21 AM PDT

    •  Basic lesson (13+ / 0-)

      I was taught this as a kid and it's supported by history, science, and common sense:

      the one lesson I've learned definitively from all of this is that if I'm kicking someone's ass, that person can legally shoot and kill me.
      Who cares if it's legal - you're killed! Or the other guy could end up killed. Get into a fight, throw one punch, and you can very easily end up with a dead opponent and then you're in prison the rest of your life. Accident? Self defense? Maybe. Maybe that won't matter.  

      I was taught that getting into a fight could mean the end of your life one way or the other.  

      Like talking back to a cop - armed, with a badge that affords privilege - could mean the same.

      These are basic lessons in our culture.

    •  Is the issue really that the State is compelled (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      puakev, No one gets out alive

      to disprove a claim of self defense beyond a reasonable doubt, or is the problem one of juror attitudes.  After all, we have had successful prosecutions where the prosecution can't even produce the victim's body, so somehow juries are able to meet the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard with circumstantial evidence, and without solid evidence the victim is even dead.  

      To hear Florida law discussed, one would come to the conclusion that the right of self defense is absolute.  It makes me wonder whether a burglar would be justified in shooting a home owner in "self defense" when caught in the commission of a burglary (to take it to a logical extreme). In such a situation, I doubt that the same jury would see that right of self defense.  

      "Because I am a river to my people."

      by lordcopper on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 11:08:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's a good question (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lordcopper

        and one that an actual attorney or law professor could enlighten you about far better than I ever could.  From what I've read from most folks versed in criminal law though is that at least with regard to the Zimmerman case, the jury adhered to the self-defense statutes of Florida and those of 48 other states.

        But it does bother me greatly how inconsistently juries apply self defense.  Marissa Alexander, a black woman who fired a warning before shooting her abusive, threatening husband, seemed to have a far more clear cut case in claiming self defense than Zimmerman, but she was convicted anyway and sentenced to 20 years.

        That self defense just happened to be applied inconsistently, in favor of a white Hispanic defendant in a case where the person killed was black, but against the defendant in a case where the defendant was black, seems very suspect, and I'd imagine especially so to black folks who have long felt (with no small amount of justification) that the justice system applies the law against blacks unequally.  

        "Those who have wrought great changes in the world never succeeded by gaining over chiefs; but always by exciting the multitude." - Martin Van Buren

        by puakev on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 11:32:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Alexander should have shot her husband (0+ / 0-)

          There are lots of other issues with the Alexander case but when she shot the wall two minor children were on the other side. The bullet went through the wall but fortunately didn't hit either child. That was her crime, putting the children in danger. I do think she would have had a better self defense case if she shot her husband. In any event I think the Alexander case was a travesty, but it was the same States Attorney who overcharged in the Zimmerman case who was the prosecutor.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 02:24:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  the right of self defense is absolute (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        puakev, lordcopper

        in that people can protect their lives.

        however,  your burglar could kill a homeowner who is going animal on them, but still be convicted under felony murder.

        see, you can't convict a burglar of murder 2 for killing
        a homeowner who is trying to cream them with a 9 iron,
        because of self defense, but then you can convict them
        of felony murder because the death was reasonably foreseeable as a result of the burglary.

        if you steal bikes with a friend, and you are trying to escape from the owner and you ride out into traffic and your friend is hit and killed by a drunk driver, you get felony murder.
        The death occurred in the commission of the crime and was
        foreseeable and proximate.

  •  yes, unfortunately the system did work... (6+ / 0-)

    I don't see how it is possible for the prosecution to ever prove a negative, that is, that the defendant had no fear whatsoever. So in essence the SYG laws are a license to kill.

  •  Stand Your Ground strikes me as tautological (0+ / 0-)

    Use of force by aggressor.--The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:
    ...

    (2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless: (a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant;

    I'm no legal scholar whatsoever, but this passage strikes me as one which begs the question as to what is a "reasonable" belief that you are in danger? In my mind, since this is a claim that must be refuted by the plaintiff, and so far that this "reasonable belief" is a vocalized taunt, a gesture, brandishing a weapon, or downright fabrication of any of these things (since it's accepted that Trayvon Martin was killed where eyewitnesses were lacking) there is no way to legally challenge such claims. It's reifying your beliefs or thoughts, the physical counterevidence to which doesn't exist. Help me out. What am I missing?

    "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

    by rovertheoctopus on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 10:10:44 AM PDT

    •  If no one had GUNS we would not have to debate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, Cassandra Waites

      this self-defense with dead witness issue now would we?''if a REAL fight occurred and someone died then the other guy, Z, might have injuries that prove he was getting his ass-whooped and needed to defend himself

    •  By this (0+ / 0-)

      if I ever even SEE my father, I'm completely justified in killing him. After all, he's never supposed to be around me, and he has threatened to kill me on several occasions.

      There are police depts who would testify that he has connections to criminal elements and has been known to shoot people in the past (non-fatally).

      Luckily for him, I won't be testing the theory.

      Get 10% off with KATALOGUE2013 at my shop, or go to the Kos Katalogue!

      by LoreleiHI on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 10:57:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't find the list of "revelations" in your (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    worldlotus, shanikka, protectspice

    block quoted paragraph the least bit eye opening.  

    Who cares if there was a crime spree going on in the neighborhood?  That is completely irrelevant.  The fact that people think it is relevant... I don't know.  Its absolutely not.

    Who cares if political officials met with the family before the case came about?  Its the least they could do considering how the Sanford Police behaved on the night of the shooting.

    The only relevant fact in that whole piece is the testimony Trayvon may have been on top of Zimmerman.  Of course, eye witness testimony is always suspect, especially when people start remembering things they initially couldn't describe.  I'm not saying the witness is lying, but our minds work to convince us of things all the time. Some times those things are distorted or untrue.  

  •  Very Sad and Troubling Case (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoregon, Catte Nappe, worldlotus

    I have stayed out of the debate because I thought that this case, though very tragic for this young man and his family, was probably not a good proxy for coming to conclusions about the law and race relations in this country.

    A young man whose life was full of promise is dead and the guy who killed him was not convicted of a crime.

    If George Zimmerman had been convicted, we'd still be living in a country where our legal codes -- especially those regarding gun ownership -- came out of a societal context that is saturated with racist, anti-Black sentiment.

    I don't know how to go forward from here on these issues ...

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 10:28:11 AM PDT

  •  He's wrong (0+ / 0-)

    The law requires you to withdraw if you initiate the confrontation.

    •  Sorry, I think you are mistaken. (6+ / 0-)

      That's Florida law. Read Florida Statutes Chapter 776 and do not skip section 776.041.

      776.041 Use of force by aggressor.—The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:
      (1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or
      (2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:
      (a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or
      (b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.
      See that "unless" in 776.041(2)?

      If you start a fight, but the victim starts whupping you, just shoot him and say you believed you were in danger of great bodily harm. Make sure you kill him, though. You don't want any living witnesses.

      -Jay-
      
  •  If Z had only listened to police instructions, (8+ / 0-)

    and not tried to be the hero, none of this would have occurred. Trayvon would be alive. Everything else is irrelevant, imo. I suspect some of this is only coming out now in order "calm everyone down" over such an unjust verdict.

    Racial hostility, homophobia and misogyny are braided together like strands of the same rope. When we fight one, we fight them all. - Charles M. Blow

    by blueoregon on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 10:32:46 AM PDT

  •  Missing in these post-trial discussions (12+ / 0-)

    has been the part where the Sanford PD had to be forced to do their jobs to begin with.

    Am I nuts for remembering this and wondering why no one is talking about that anymore? Is it nuts to wonder what "evidence" would have existed, if these cops had just done their jobs from the very beginning?

    That's one of the biggest reasons why this verdict wasn't a surprise to me or anyone who actually lives in this area of Florida.  Those bastards were just fine with GZ's version of events and they were gonna let the whole thing slide.

    Doesn't anyone remember that?

    That's why Coates, while raising some worthy items of note, is still barking up the wrong tree with this. And that's not to say the points made aren't valid--they more or less are. But at the end of the day, what caused this miscarriage of "justice" was two-fold:

    A) a fucked-up law in "Stand Your Ground", a law so broadly-written that we now see the bad intentions on the Road To Hell it set us on.

    B) A bunch of racist thugs charged with policing a community, who had to be forced to do so when the victim wasn't as white as the driven snow.

    As long as either of these things are allowed to stand As Is, there will never be real justice for victims in the state of Florida. Ever.

    This all started with "what the Republicans did to language".

    by lunachickie on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 11:04:21 AM PDT

    •  Did you ever stop to think (0+ / 0-)

      That the reason Zimmerman walked the night of the shooting, and the reason he was found not guilty was that the evidence of the case supported the claim of self defense?

      •  Not the point being made here. (3+ / 0-)

        Did you actually stop and READ the point?

        The evidence PRESENTED IN COURT didn't support a claim, it merely didn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was acting beyond "self-defense".

        The bigger point is that there was, in fact, a likelihood of plenty more evidence that was set aside or destroyed, due to the initial handling of the investigation.

        This all started with "what the Republicans did to language".

        by lunachickie on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:10:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I was just going to bring that up. (3+ / 0-)

      Trayvon was very close to his house when this happened.
      Yet for three days his parents kept calling the police dept asking about their son. They didn't know where he was, he's a missing person.
        How many 17 year old boys did they have at the morgue coming from that neighborhood that night?
        When the cops arrived on the scene they didn't bother to go around and ask any of the neighbors if they were missing any family members.
        The police were perfectly willing to take Zimmerman's word for what happened and be done with it.
         Don't you remember the diariess that sprang up all over here during this time? Don't you remember the pressure that had to be put on the police dept. to do their job, especially since we as a community at Dairy Kos were part of that effort.
        I can't remember how many months it took for the police dept. to charge Zimmerman. Then for a time his presence was unaccounted for.

        The French Revolution was not just about one issue you know. I just remembered last night was Bastille Day. People stormed the streets last night for justice instead of a prison for weapons.
        I can draw a lot of parallels between then and now, even clothing became an issue, but I won't.

       So I'm with you lunachickie.

        Lets go back and look at all the comments that were posted in diaries at the time this all was happening before our eyes to see how we all felt. That would be interesting.

      Always get on a clean bus in case you get hit by underwear. I like being out there, it's better than being in here.

      by nellgwen on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:35:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I DISAGREE with Ta-Nehisi Coates (14+ / 0-)

    (the new intellectual leader of black folks).
    Based on the evidence provided, George Zimmerman could have - and should have - been convicted of 2nd degree murder.
    Lest we forget, at this very moment - prosecuted by these same prosecutors - a young black woman is serving 20 fucking years in prison for shooting at a fucking WHITE ceiling so as to warn off her abusive husband.

    This from your second piece:

    Did you know that, thanks in part to the actions of Zimmerman and his wife, the juvenile suspect was caught and sentenced as an adult by this same judge, Debra Nelson, to five years in prison?
    A fucking teenager is serving 5 years in prison for robbery, right? And you tell me that an adult kills a teen and hand him his gun and pat him on the shoulders?

    Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

    by JoanMar on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 11:07:37 AM PDT

    •  same page, Joan... same page. as usual. (7+ / 0-)

      I was gonna basically write this comment, then decided "screw it."

      This comment is dedicated to my mellow Adept2U and his Uncle Marcus

      by mallyroyal on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 11:27:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  to prove 2nd degree murder (0+ / 0-)

      you need to show depraved heart.

      state never had that.

      •  It's a wonder they ever can, then. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        protectspice

        How can you prove what's in someone's head/heart? You get a skilled enough liar or a "sociopath" capable of saying and believing anything they say to an inhuman degree, and toss in the fact that none of us can actually read others' thoughts, and you get reasonable doubt always, I'm betting.

        "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

        by bryduck on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 02:09:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Which is why they should have charged manslaughter (0+ / 0-)

          and not Murder 2, is was a significant factor in the ultimate verdict.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 02:30:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Self-defense precludes conviction (0+ / 0-)

            of manslaughter also . . .

            "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

            by bryduck on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 09:51:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  bryduck - but the focus of the trial prep (0+ / 0-)

              and the prosecution at trial was on proving Murder 2, a much higher burden and including elements not found in the much more straight forward, and easier for the jury to follow, crime of manslaughter. By trying to prove Murder 2 the prosecution added more elements to the trial, and elements where they had scant evidence, raising doubt in the jury's mind. I think now that the trial is over, and the jury has returned its verdict, you will find that the overwhelming majority of trial lawyers feel overcharging was a fundamental error.

              "let's talk about that"

              by VClib on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 12:41:34 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Perhaps, but overcharging (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                VClib

                had nothing to do with the judge's instructions regarding self-defense; he would have said the exact same thing if Man was the only charge, and it seems that the impossibility of proving the negative (shocker!) in GZ's mind was decisive for the jurors.

                "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

                by bryduck on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 01:01:48 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  If the jury decided on self defense that's true (0+ / 0-)

                  but the juror who was on CNN last night mentioned that the law was very confusing to the jury and they really didn't understand the manslaughter charge. Complexity raises doubts. It was a big mistake.

                  One of the cardinal rules of being a trial lawyer KISS (keep it simple stupid).

                  "let's talk about that"

                  by VClib on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 01:09:53 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'm thinking of the juror (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    VClib

                    (mentioned in lots of other posts, but I do not have a link or site to give you, I'm afraid) who specifically mentioned SYG and self-defense when interviewed. Confusion definitely hurts, but given the short time they took for deliberation, that wasn't too much of an issue. Otoh, I can see them all saying "I don't understand any of this, so that must mean I have reasonable doubt!"
                    I think instead they were all saying "We can't know what was in GZ's head when he pulled the trigger, and the judge told us in that case we must find him non-guilty."

                    "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

                    by bryduck on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 01:14:46 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

        •  Prior statements, prior writings, prior acts. (0+ / 0-)

          If someone says "I can't wait to kill a negro", well,

          or

          has a membership in the Klan or Aryan nation,

          or

          Carves a swastika in the victims chest

          or

          Is shouting "Die N&**$R, Die"

          •  Those are not exactly likely, are they? (0+ / 0-)

            GZ came pretty close to saying those kinds of things minutes before pulling the trigger, imho.
            Besides, the precedent set here is that none of those things can be taken into consideration by the jury anyway, according to the judge's instructions . . .

            "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

            by bryduck on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 09:50:30 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  they happen all the time (0+ / 0-)

              https://en.wikipedia.org/...

              State law enforcement officials, along with Jasper's District Attorney, determined that since Brewer and King were well-known white supremacists, the murder was a hate crime. They decided to call upon the Federal Bureau of Investigation less than 24 hours after the discovery of Byrd's remains.[citation needed]
              King had several racist tattoos: a black man hanging from a tree, Nazi symbols, the words "Aryan Pride," and the patch for a gang of white supremacist inmates known as the Confederate Knights of America.[13] In a jailhouse letter to Brewer that was intercepted by jail officials, King expressed pride in the crime and said he realized in committing the murder he might have to die. "Regardless of the outcome of this, we have made history. Death before dishonor. Sieg Heil!" King wrote.[10] An officer investigating the case also testified that witnesses said King had referenced The Turner Diaries after beating Byrd.[14]
              http://en.wikipedia.org/...

              most states have hate crime enhancements in sentencing
              and we see 10,000 a year.

              GZ may have been a bigot, but it was in a arm chair archie bunker kind of way, not a robe wearing klansman.

              The record was clear, GZ didn't like "Punks and Assholes",
              the record was unclear if he disliked people of color

              •  I'm not referring to racist statements, (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Tonedevil

                though, but rather more general bigotry. And in any case, the jury instructions nullified all of the things you are noting--remember, they were only supposed to read his mind at the exact time and place when/where he pulled the trigger.

                "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

                by bryduck on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 10:59:01 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  you can't imprison someone (0+ / 0-)

                  for a vague generic dislike of some people.

                  You may find it annoying, your wife's racist uncle ray
                  or you may find annoying that old guy down the street,
                  and
                  http://www.youtube.com/...

                  you can dislike walt above,

                  but,

                  you have to judge someone based upon what happened
                  in that moment.

                  We seek simplistic stories, yet the world is hardly ever that way.

      •  I've never seen a better example (0+ / 0-)

        of a depraved heart as Zimmerman's. Listening to the tape to the police shows exactly what kind of depravity infected his sick racist paranoid mind. Was the defense allowed to play this tape?  My god I'm get sick of the Law being tweaked on every level to mean killing is good and fear the other.  

        •  Jruy didn't see it. (0+ / 1-)
          Recommended by:
          Hidden by:
          shaharazade

          you know GZ had been demonstrating to get a white cops son prosecuted for beating up a homeless black man?

          •  BS what crap is this (0+ / 0-)

            your telling me. Get outta here with your Zimmerman is not a stone cold killer but a defender of black people. Truly sick, totally throws our post in this thread into a new light. Go back under to whatever stone you crawled out of.

            •  it may be hard to believe but CBS reported it (0+ / 0-)

              http://tampa.cbslocal.com/...

              ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — George Zimmerman accused the Sanford police department of corruption more than a year before he shot Trayvon Martin, saying at a public forum the agency covered up the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white officer.

              “I would just like to state that the law is written in black and white,” Zimmerman said during a 90-second statement to city commissioners at a community forum. “It should not and cannot be enforced in the gray for those who are in the thin blue line.”

              The forum took place on Jan. 8, 2011, days after a video of the beating went viral on the Internet and then-Sanford Police Chief Brian Tooley was forced to retire. Tooley’s department faced criticism for dragging its feet in arresting Justin Collison, the son of a police lieutenant.

              “I’d like to know what action the commission is taking in order to repeal Mr. Tooley’s pension,” Zimmerman said to the commission. “I’m not asking you to repeal his pension; I believe he’s already forfeited his pension by his illegal cover-up in corruption in what happened in his department.”

              http://www.cnn.com/...
              George Zimmerman gave a scathing review of the Sanford Police Department and accused its chief of engaging in a cover-up during a public meeting in January 2011.
              Zimmerman's anger stemmed from the case of Sherman Ware, a black homeless man who was beaten by the son of a white police lieutenant.
              Since Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in February -- in what he insists was self-defense -- Zimmerman's family has pointed to his efforts to "get justice" for Ware in response to people around the country who have accused him of racially profiling the 17-year-old. Zimmerman is Hispanic; Trayvon Martin was black.
              https://www.youtube.com/...

              here's the video of the original incident.

              Now if you think it's BS, then what can i say, but,
              you should take your hide off.

    •  I wonder what the jury instructiions were in that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mkor7

      case.

      I really do.

      I think that Coates makes a good case, based on the facts we know about the Zimmerman case.

      I just really wonder what the jury in the other cases were told about self defense law. I bet they weren't give then same instructions.  I'd bet you lunch. And I'd love for Mally to come too.

      Unequal justice and injustice usually lies in the little details.

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:42:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  i disagree with bmaz. there was factual rebuttal (3+ / 0-)
      has never been a good factual rebuttal to George Zimmerman’s own account of self defense.
      Zimmerman claimed two facts that caused him fear sufficient for self-defense: (1) Trayvon was banging his head on concrete sidewalk and (2) Trayvon reached for his gun.

      EVEN if we assumed that these facts were true, neither occurred at the time he shot Trayvon. Therefore, no fear sufficient for self defense.

      (1) Trayvon was banging his head on concrete sidewalk: The pictures showed Trayvon's dead body on the grass several feet from the sidewalk. So, at the time of the shooting, there was no banging on the sidewalk that O'mara claimed to be Trayvon's weapon of concrete.

      (2) Trayvon reached for his gun. The prosecution showed that this was a physical impossibility. Zimmerman said Trayvon was on top of him, straddling his waist with his legs. Zimmerman's gun was in a holster on the inside of his waistband on his back, not his chest. Zimmerman claimed he shot because Trayvon grabbed his gun. But, no DNA of trayvon on the gun, and how did Trayvon grab a gun located underneath Zimmerman?

      So, yeah, there was a good factual rebuttal to Zimmerman's own account of self-defense.

    •  Sis I respectfully disagree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mallyroyal

      Having read that statute repeatedly, and discussed it with other lawyers, we all agree that the elements of 2nd degree murder at issue in the case are such that. Zimmerman could not be convicted. 2nd Degree in Florida requires affirmative evidence of Zimmerman having "committed an unlawful killing by an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life" and demonstrating that Trayvon Martin's death was the result of a "criminal act". Thus, the jury had to find that the killing was unlawful, AND find that it was done with a mindset demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life. (Since shooting someone is imminently dangerous, it's a non-issue, as was the other element--that Trayvon Martin was killed.)

      Now, to laypeople, that seems very simple. Unfortunately, contained within that sentence are multiple, separate inquiries ALL of which the evidence had to answer affirmatively at the "beyond a reasonable doubt" level if a  conviction for Murder 2 was going to be legally supported.  Each of them only sends the analysis farther down the primrose path and against the prosecution, because Florida makes clear that the "depraved mind without regard to human life" is not just the anti-Black racist one possessed by the Zimmermans of the world, but of a particular character:

      An act is “imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind” if it is an act or series of acts that:

      1.    a person of ordinary judgment would know is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to another, and

      2.    is done from ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent, and

      3.    is of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life.

      Each and every one of the phrases, in law, has words contained in it which ALSO have to be parsed, and for which the state ALSO carries the burden of the "beyond a reasonable doubt standard."

      And that's before we even get to the fact that in connection with not one, but two, of the three elements of the crime for 2nd degree murder, the jury must find that the killing was unlawful, not excusable or justified under law, i.e. not in self-defense. With the burden of both proof and production on the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was NOT self-defense.

      You know I am sick, body and soul, over this verdict and the underlying death of another young Black child at the hands of a white person (and I don't care that he's Hispanic--that's not a race, that's an ethnicity). You know how I feel about it. You know the rage I'm carrying around, because I suspect you are too like so many other of our people this morning. But IMO 2nd degree murder should have never been on the table because it was unprovable given that the only person who could truly disprove what Zimmerman was saying was dead. Especially since as a matter of law, none of Zimmerman's prior violent history could come in under what lawyers call the prior bad acts doctrine. Nor can you use the fact that he followed and ultimately killed Trayvon by gunshot as evidence of "a depraved mind" in a state where folks are running around legally blowing people away all the time with their legal guns, whether under SYG or not, because the depravity is measured against that possessed by society at large. Once he raised the "scared of being killed by the black thug in a hoodie who looked like he was on drugs" defense, all that came into play. It shouldn't have, but it did. Multiple folks testified that's what Zimmerman told them contemporaneously. And nothing short of testimony out of Zimmerman's own mouth could overcome it. Testimony which, of course, he was not compelled to give as a criminal defendant.

      God, you have to know that I wish it were different.

      All that being said, Manslaughter should have been on the table from the get go, including the lesser degrees of manslaughter such as culpable negligence. If this jury had found Zimmerman guilty of manslaughter IMO it would have been a supportable conviction on appeal despite all the bleating about that charge not being supported in this case. IMO, again looking at the statute, it is a supportable charge. Is it a slam-dunk? Sadly no, not even there. Because, as we have seen, the same rule making the state disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt in connection with Murder 2 does so in connection with manslaughter. And I am confident that's where the jury got caught up. You have conflicting witnesses indicating that, at a minimum, Trayvon was holding his own in a physical fight with George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman claims that he feared for his life in that fight (set aside all his bullshit lies about "ground and pound.) Once he said that, it was up to the State of Florida to prove that he was lying about being afraid. It couldn't, except out of his own mouth. Frankly, I don't think he was lying about being afraid. I believe he got in the boy's face, and put his hands on him--at which point Trayvon began beating his ass. (Which, I admit, I'm happy about because it appears to be the only justice that he is ever going to receive.)

      Again, you have to know that I am not writing these because I believe that George Zimmerman doesn't deserve to be in prison because of what he did to that child. Frankly, he deserves to be under the jail. But depressingly, the outcome was one that is outrageous only because the racism that put in motion the death of yet another young innocent Black person was never discussed in the courtroom and overtly rejected for discussion when everyone knows that it was the crucial thing that caused Zimmerman to decide Trayvon Martin was "suspicious." (Not that the discussion was guaranteed to make a difference with this particular jury; I don't know what fucking idiot told the prosecution that the mindset from being female and a mother was going to overcome the mindset of being a southern white female in a case like this, but it clearly wasn't a Black person!)

      I have prayed a lot since Saturday, have raged a lot since Saturday and will do both for some time while also encouraging others to do the same so we can finally get to work taking care of our own people (since, clearly, nobody else is going to, not where the law is concerned anyway because the law simply refuses to acknowledge the reality of ongoing anti-Black racism as the rule, not the exception, in America.)  

      A very long response which I hope you will excuse.

  •  Ta Nehisi Coates is always a good read (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Draxinum

    He is one of the best and smartest of writers. I love his stuff.

    Be involved! http://www.whereistheoutrage.net

    by ecthompson on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 11:11:16 AM PDT

  •  I KNEW when JEB! passed this shit law (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nellgwen, mkor7, pengiep, shaharazade

    it was gonna be the wild, wild West here. Not much publicity about the law's effect but then I looked up claims of self-defense in deaths in the state.

    "He went to Harvard, not Hogwarts." ~Wanda Sykes

    Blessinz of teh Ceiling Cat be apwn yu, srsly.

    by OleHippieChick on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 11:27:55 AM PDT

  •  I'm kind of skeptical of the whole DOJ thing. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    worldlotus

    Unfortunately, there isn't all that much that they could charge him with.  With the money that Zimmerman has collected from people who daydream of donning white bedsheets (or perhaps who actually do don white bedsheets), he can afford to pay for good defense attorneys who will, sadly, be able to take apart any accusations of racial bias for the simple fact that there is very little evidence, beyond the disputed 911 call, of a racial intent.  The feds would have a more difficult time of it than the state did :(.

    Ugh.

    I don't know.  I do know that this was a hard case.  I think that in better circumstances, with more facts, without the botched initial investigation and without the misconduct described, perhaps a conviction could have been achieved.

    But Florida being Florida, how in the hell do you get a repeal of SYG through the legislature?  Is there a process for propositions in Florida?  Do opinion surveys support the possibility of success for such a proposition, or is that a waste of resources at this time?

    I guess I feel like this week is a week for mourning.  We've got to do something, but then what?  I kind of want to hear what activists in Florida have to contribute to this - what is within the realm of possibilities, how can this be unraveled?

    As for Trayvon, I fear that his killer will not be jailed for his actions; plainly, the good'ole Southern lynching is alive and well :(.

    "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

    by auron renouille on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 11:44:02 AM PDT

    •  auron - I agree (0+ / 0-)

      I don't think it's possible for the DoJ to indict based on the facts we observed at the trial.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 02:33:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Florida government on all levels (0+ / 0-)

      seems firmly in the grip of RW maniacs and R's like Jeb. R's who may appear saner but are so corrupt it takes your breathe away. Same with the Democratic power holders there. Debbie Wasserman, of 'what kill list?' being a fine example. The political corruption and the cultural stew makes this place no where that I expect to change anytime soon. Although somehow Grayson got reelected. So where there's life there's hope. This seems a microcosm of the state of justice through out our land. Kill what threatens you even if it's just in your head.  

  •  Coates is regularly excellent. NT (0+ / 0-)

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 11:49:49 AM PDT

  •  Ecclesiastes 4:1 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mkor7, shanikka
    So I returned and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

    Ceterum censeo Factionem Republicanam esse delendam.

    by journeyman on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 11:57:12 AM PDT

  •  Tavis Smiley and Dan Abrams (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pengiep, VClib, shanikka, mallyroyal

    Had an exchange on George Stephanopolous's show and it struck me that there two distinct points in this issue.

    1. The persistent demonisation that black men face in America and how it contributed to the incident that cost Trayvon his life.

    2. The legal question that was being adjudicated in the matter. Did the jury have enough to convict Zimmerman?

    As a black man who has been damaged, permanently damaged, by racial profiling I feel exactly where Tavis is coming from in my heart. That disrespect and disdain stays with you. It is destructive to your sense of self.

    But as someone who seeks to be rational I have to admit that what Dan Abrams said made sense. The case against Zimmerman was weak.

    The cave, the Matrix, America.

    by Grassee on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:19:38 PM PDT

  •  "he had no responsibility to retreat?" So... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bryduck, Cassandra Waites

    any vigilante, at least in FL, can deliberately pursue a person who is walking in a public place, participate in an altercation with that person, and then kill them, without any consequence?  

    And, those homeowners who are so supportive of Zimmerman's playing cop--I wonder if they are totally comfortable with having their own teenagers walk through their neigborhood(s)--especially at night, wearing a hoodie?

    There are many issues in this whole case that are deeply troubling, aside from the deeply troubling and tragic unnecessary death of an unarmed young man.  

    One is that private citizen cop-wannabees like Zimmerman, with no professional training or accountability, can initiate confrontations with people they choose to harass, track, follow, whatever-any person they believe to be "suspicious"--can wind up killing their target, can claim "self-defense" (after being the instigator) and apparently they have no legal prohibitions from doing so.  

    Yet, Zimmerman's neighborhood association paid Trayvon's parents $1 million for a wrongful death claim. Because, his death was wrongful.

  •  Thanks for the diary, BK. (0+ / 0-)

    As I noted to Joan above, I bet that many Florida juries don't get those jury instructions.

    Cases often hinge on what instructions juries get. They can often be the little trapdoors through which justice falls through and is lost forever.

    I'd love to see a survey where that specific instruction (and ones like it) is given.

    © grover


    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:48:11 PM PDT

  •  Absolutely. We should concentrate on getting rid (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shaharazade

    of the "stand your ground laws" for any place other than inside of one's own home. These laws are abominations and must be repealed. Many more people will be killed by eliminating a duty to retreat from confrontation.

    "Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens," -Friedrich Schiller "Against Stupidity, the Gods themselves contend in Vain"

    by pengiep on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 01:22:24 PM PDT

  •  That's "harsh"? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shaharazade

    Looks like legalese to me.  I come from a place and time where our polenics are, well, more polemical I guess.

    "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" ~Dr. Samuel Johnson

    by ActivistGuy on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 01:55:01 PM PDT

  •  The comments on that article (0+ / 0-)

    are where it gets really harsh. My god they are disgusting. I hate people.

    Do you not see that it is the grossest idolatry to speak of the market as though it were the rival of God?

    by kismet on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 02:00:38 PM PDT

  •  Just one comment (0+ / 0-)

    Equating ex parte rules and "the rule of law" in my opinion is asinine. If ex parte rules and other judicial standards were the reason that Zimmerman got off, then he "got off on technicalities".

    You all remember that phrase, right? That phrase would make conservatives go nuts in the 60's and 70's, when they were convinced that the "bad guys" were all getting away with murder (often literally), because of "technicalities".

    "Technicalities" translates to judicial process. "Rule of law" means that everyone is subject to the same laws. Not at ALL the same thing.

  •  Adding another paragraph from Coates's piece: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mimi, Cassandra Waites
    It is painful to say this: Trayvon Martin is not a miscarriage of American justice, but American justice itself. This is not our system malfunctioning. It is our system working as intended. To expect our juries, our schools, our police to single-handedly correct for this, is to look at the final play in the final minute of the final quarter and wonder why we couldn't come back from twenty-four down.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 02:55:47 PM PDT

  •  Not mutually exclusive (0+ / 0-)
    And is the best course of action, given what these two wrote, to petition the Justice Department to file suit?  Should our focus be on repealing the Stand Your Ground law in Florida?
    Why not both?

    Arrrr, the laws of science be a harsh mistress. -Bender B. Rodriguez

    by democracy inaction on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 04:08:25 PM PDT

  •  The problem I have with this argument (0+ / 0-)

    is that self-defense is an affirmative defense which should shift the burden of proof to the defense -- not the prosecution. There can be no presumption of innocence when the act is already stipulated.

    I'll believe corporations are people when one comes home from Afghanistan in a body bag.

    by mojo11 on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 10:12:18 AM PDT

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